Brands need to be creative in fragmented environment

CAVELOSSIM: The first panel discussion of The Business Conclave session of the fifth edition of Goafest 2010 on Time to Grow – Brand and Creativity was moderated by Mudra Group managing director and chief executive officer Madhukar Kamath.

Answers were sought for pertinent questions such as - For a developing market like India, are our brands growing fast enough? Is creativity rising to the occasion to drive and grow brands? Given the increasing noise and clutter in Indian Media, has creativity risen far enough to make brands stand out and make an impact?

If one were to go by awards, then it has. But what do the figures from markets and brand tracks reveal? And what do advertisers say based on what is happening in the market place?
The panel members were Nielsen Asia’s managing director Piyush Mathur (The story of brand growth); Millward Brown’s chief creative officer & director Global Solutions Board Shiv Moulee who spoke on the emerging story on brand tracks; HUL’s VP (Haircare and Lame event) Rajaram Narayan; O&M’s Piyush Pandey (What we need to do make advertising sell better?); and Yahoo’s CEO Arun Tadanki ( Digital- the missing link in Advertiser’s armoury).

Mathur who has returned recently from abroad after more than a decade, kicked off the discussion lauding Indian creativity saying that it was world class. He spoke of ‘Indovation’ (Indian innovations’ such as the Nano, thumbprint banking for the uneducated, etc.), a term coined by a Cambridge university pundit.

Mathur spoke of the clutter in the television space with the number of channels growing from 340 in 2006 to 430-plus in 2009 in India and the drop in share of leading channels by 40 per cent though ad spends had dropped by 10 per cent.

Though media expenses headed south due to the global meltdown, FMCG and durables ad spends had shown double-digit growth in that period, informed Mathur. He said that rural was a great opportunity for brands, since people were moving from commodities to brands in these segments.
Moulee said that in a large market like India, the GDP of a state surpassed those of some nations. He cited the cases of Maharashtra and Punjab whose GDP exceeded that of New Zealand and Kenya respectively. He informed that company sales were mostly in sync with the state GDP’s in each state in India.

Emphasizing the importance of creativity for brands, Moulee cautioned: “Fragmented categories are a new reality today, the level of branding engagement has declined. The nature of engagements has also changed since people bond with brands. Challenge for advertising begins at the starting point - cutting through the clutter.”

Narayan agreed with Moulee but said that Indian advertising is being held back by lack of creativity or media support. He also observed that the spends have come down, though India continued to be ahead in terms of growth compared to the rest of the world. “Advertisers are recalibrating after the slow down. The recovery for advertising will not keep pace with growth in India’s GDP, ” he cautioned.

He noted that as brands grew, the battle rules were changing and advertising had to compete with other levers for growth. Development of the right kind of capabilities were needed to push brand growth forward.
Pandey posed the question to the advertising fraternity – “Are we serious about advertising or do we need to sell more?” He said that the clients were busy throughout the year researching advertisements and then playing it safe by not allowing agencies to be creative, while agencies were busy spending money for stuff that did not make sense to win awards.

"One side wants to see advertising as a science while the other sees it as an art. Advertising is not a science; everybody would be doing it otherwise. It is a commercial art," he said.

Tadanki said that advertisers had inaccurate perceptions and impressions about the digital medium. He cited the example of Indian Englsh newspaper advertising with a reach of 16.7 million attracting Rs 68 billion of ad spends as opposed to the internet with almost three times the reach at 49.6 million garnering only Rs 6.5 billion. He said that the reach of the internet was more than just Sec A as 34 per cent of the internet came from the top 8 metros, 33 per cent were from Sec. A, and 22 million users came from the 25+ years segments. He said that the reach of the internet was comparable to English television.

“Consumers have moved online, advertisers haven’t kept pace,” he bemoaned, while citing the case of a leading automobile brand which had 80 per cent of its prospective buyers as internet users. The brand spent just 3 per cent of its ad budget on online advertising.

“Sub optimal allocation will not get the results for any medium. Try radio advertisement with just Rs 500,000 or place just two billboards ads in Delhi – will that show that radio or outdoor advertising is working?”, he queried.

Tadanki said that unlearning of measures such as clicks was required since this was an inaccurate method. “What of the 99.5 per cent of the users that saw the ad but never clicked?”

Internet could be used for brand building, and was a means to communicate the brand message with measurable impact on brand health. Attention, however, needed to be paid to creative output since most agencies delegated the creative work to an inexperienced person or a trainee.

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